The PreSonus Monitor Station expands your studio''s monitoring muscle with four headphone amps, a talkback section, and the ability to switch between three input sources and three speaker pairs.
PreSonus has a reputation for producing great-sounding audio products at reasonable prices, and the Monitor Station ($399.95) doesn't disappoint. Housed in a rugged chassis that sits on a table or desktop, the 8 × 10-inch device provides headphone amps, speaker switching, input source switching, and talkback capabilities.
The Monitor Station lets you connect as many as three stereo sources — two on balanced ¼-inch connectors and one on RCA jacks — and route them to three pairs of speakers. The RCA input has its own level control, as well as a phono preamp and a grounding screw for connecting a turntable. The Monitor Station uses a wall wart for power.
You choose input sources and speaker pairs using large, illuminated buttons, which can be configured in either toggle mode (making one choice cancels the others) or combination mode (all choices can be active simultaneously). If you use a subwoofer, you can leave it connected while you toggle between two sets of mains. Toggle mode is great for quickly switching between speaker pairs while auditioning your mix. In addition, you can either sum the inputs or toggle them one at a time. Using toggle mode with input sources is handy for comparing your mix to commercial CDs.
Each of the three speaker selections has an adjustment knob for calibrating its level. The manual provides extensive instructions on calibrating your system. For accurate comparisons, most users will want to calibrate each set of speakers to the same loudness level.
The Monitor Station provides no amplification and requires powered speakers or speakers with an outboard amplifier. In addition to my main studio monitors, I typically check mixes on my computer's external speakers and on consumer-grade speakers. Because all of the Monitor Station's speaker outputs are on balanced ¼-inch TRS connectors, I had to dig through my adapter drawer to get everything connected.
Once you've calibrated your speaker levels, use the large level knob in the unit's center to control all outputs simultaneously. Just above the knob is a stereo LED peak/level meter with eight steps; you can configure it to peak at +4, +10, or +18 dBu. To either side of the level control are buttons for muting and summing stereo signals to mono. The Monitor Station retains its speaker, input, and LED meter configurations when you power it up.
RIGHT ON CUE
The speaker outputs, LED meters, mute and monitor buttons, and main level control all use the main output bus for audio. A second bus labeled Cue adds substantial flexibility during recording. The Cue bus has its own set of input selectors and a separate level knob, making it easy to provide a click track or an alternate mix that doesn't appear on the mains.
On the back panel are dedicated ¼-inch TRS outputs for both the main and cue signals. I found the Cue bus to be most useful in conjunction with the headphone amplifiers. The four headphone jacks are at the top, just above their respective level knobs and source selection buttons. Each headphone circuit can connect to either the main or Cue bus, allowing your drummer to hear the click track, for example, while the vocalist hears only the mains. My AKG headphones require a hot signal, and the Monitor Station delivers. The headphone amps sounded clean, loud, and clear. In fact, I could detect no coloration or induced noise anywhere in the Monitor Station's audio signal.
The Monitor Station provides a talkback channel with a dedicated level control and a built-in microphone on the front panel. The button that activates the circuit can be latching or momentary, and it glows bright red when it's engaged. If you prefer, you can connect your own talkback microphone to an XLR connection on the back panel. The Monitor Station offers no phantom power, however.
The talkback signal appears only in the Cue bus, and the bus's signal diminishes automatically when you activate the channel — a nice touch. A dedicated Dim knob controls how much the signal drops, and you can activate the Dim function independently of talkback using a dedicated button.
All in all, the Monitor Station is a great little unit that performs admirably. If you could use some additional monitoring flexibility in your studio, the Monitor Station may provide just what you need.
Value (1 through 5): 4